Besides living in Scotland, David Livingstone was a man on track to successfully accomplish the “American dream”, only something went horribly wrong. Born in 1813 and raised in a humble Scottish home, Livingstone set his heart on achieving success by becoming a medical doctor. He supported himself through college and was accepted to medical school in London. Livingstone graduated with honors but not before his life goals would be rearranged by the words of one Dr. Robert Moffat.
While a student in London, Livingstone had the opportunity to hear a message presented by a missionary doctor from Africa named Moffat. Moffat reported,
“I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary has ever been.”
These words burned in Livingstone’s heart ultimately compelling him to give up his small ambitions in order to join Dr. Moffat as a missionary in Africa. David Livingstone lived the next 30 years of his life as a missionary and explorer in Africa. He traveled over 29,000 miles preaching the gospel, providing medical services, building churches, and mapping the vast African continent.
Livingstone is best known for his accomplishments as an explorer as he was the first man to map Africa and the first European to discover many areas of Africa. What is less known of Livingstone is the immense suffering he endured in order to reach Africa with the gospel of Christ. He was once attacked by a lion on the mission field crushing his shoulder to the point that its mobility would be hindered for the rest of his life. Livingstone married and deeply loved Mary Moffat (the daughter of Dr. Moffat), but because of the difficulty of travel and various sicknesses he would spend more than half of his 18 years of marriage separate from his wife. The couple lost a child to sickness on the mission field, and later Livingstone also lost his beloved wife to sickness on the mission field as well. During his time in Africa Livingstone once went 3 years with no correspondence from his family because the letters were unable to get to him.
After all of this here is what Livingston had to say about the price he paid to live as a missionary in Africa.
“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much time in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paying back a small part of a great debt owing to our God which we can never repay? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought. It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.” (written in David’s journal late in life)
David Livingston lost his wife, a child, his health, and gave up a comfortable future living out what we know as the “American dream.” Instead he eeked out an existence in the bush of Africa for 30 years. After all that suffering Livingstone says it was a privilege, not a sacrifice. Why? By the grace of God David Livingstone bought into a dream far bigger than himself and a comfortable life. Livingstone lived to participate with God in the greatest of possible adventures. He gave his life for the glory of God among the people of Africa.